Nov 292016
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Left-wing academics, writers and journalists have written tendentious articles where they manage to transform reactionary political leaders into working class heroes and present their dreadful policies as progressive advances.

Recently, leftist pundits throughout US and Latin America have plagued the reading public with gross distortions of historical events contributing, in their own way, to the demise of the left and the rise of the right.

The leading international figures in this deceptive left-wing punditry include the famous Noam Chomsky, once eulogized by the New York Times (NYT) as ‘America’s most important public intellectual’. Such effusion is not surprising: Professor Chomsky and the NYT both supported the presidential candidacy of the warmongering Hillary Clinton, the perpetrator of seven wars that uprooted 20 million people from Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, sub-Sahara Africa (Is this any different from Stalin in the ‘30s?) and author/supporter of numerous coups and attempted ‘regime changes’ in Brazil, Honduras, Venezuela, Paraguay and Ukraine.

The same MIT intellectual turned his prestige-laden ire on the authors of the definitive critique of the pro-Israel lobby (The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (2007)) and slandered the most effective activist group against Israeli colonial land grabbers – the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). So much for America’s most ‘prominent intellectual’ – a crypto-warmonger, who not only supported the candidacy of the blood-gorged war goddess Clinton, but has become a leader of the post-election propaganda and ‘regime change’ campaign to overthrow the buffoonish President-Elect Donald Trump. Chomsky’s diatribe against Trump claimed nothing less than the world now faced the gravest danger in all its history with the election of the real estate-casino King Donald. Noam deftly papered over his defeated candidate Hillary’s vow to unleash possible nuclear war by shooting down Russian planes over Syria – in opposition to Trump’s reasoned proposal to work with Putin in ending the brutal war in Syria.

There are different versions of the ‘leftist’-imperial-collaborator apologist Chomsky throughout Latin America. One is Emir Sader.

Emir Sader, professor of Political Science at the University of Rio de Janeiro and author of the book celebrating the first ‘workers’ President of Brazil, Lula DaSilva (Without Fear of Being Happy: Lula, The Workers Party and Brazil(1991)) is a frequent contributor to the leading ‘progressive’ daily newspapers throughout Latin America, including La Jornada of Mexico, as well as the influential bi-monthly The New Left Review in Great Britain.

Lula
Lula

Needless to say, Sader never cited any inconvenient facts when praising the leadership of Lula Da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s last two elected presidents from the Workers Party. For example, Sader omitted the fact that President Da Silva implemented an IMF-mandated austerity program upon taking office. He tiptoed around the Wall Street Bankers’ awarding Lula a “Man of the Year” prize. Professor Sader forgot to cite the abrupt drop in farmland expropriations (guaranteed under Brazil’s Constitution) for rural landless workers movement (MST) – leaving hundreds of thousands of landless peasant families under thin plastic tents. His ‘Worker President’ Lula appointed neo-liberal economists and central bank directors to his cabinet. Lula supported the interests of big agro-business, big oil and big mining oligarchs who slashed and burned the Amazon rain forest murdering indigenous leaders, peasants and ecologists who resisted the devastation and displacement.

Sader lauded, as ‘generous’, the monthly ‘food baskets’, equivalent to $60 dollars, which the local Workers Party operative passed out to about 30 million destitute families to create a rural client-base. Sader and his string of leftist followers in North and South America, England and France never attacked the high level bribery, fraud and corruption linking Workers Party leaders to construction multi-nationals and Petrobras, the state oil company and billions of state contracts.

Sader and his international acolytes celebrated Brazil’s ascent to world power as a member of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) with Lula as a leader in bringing the poor into the ‘middle class’. He never stopped to analyze how Lula managed to balance the interests of the IMF, Wall Street, agro-business, bankers while enticing a huge voting majority among the poor and workers.

Lula’s ‘miracle’ was a temporary mirage, its reality evident to only a few critics who pointed to the reliance on a prolong commodity export boom. The business elites backed Lula because of state subsidies and tax incentives. Hundreds of right-wing Congress people and cabinet members jumped on the Workers Party bandwagon to enjoy the payola payoffs from contractors. But by the end of Lula’s eight year term, exports of primary commodities to China sharply declined, commodity prices collapsed and the business elites and bankers turned their backs on the ‘Worker President’ as they looked for a new regime to rescue them by sacrificing the poor.

The rest of the story is well known: Former PT allies launched corruption investigations to pull down the PT government. Twice-elected President Dilma Rouseff was impeached in a bizarre legislative coup, orchestrated by a corrupt PT ally from a right-wing party, Congressional head Eduardo Cunhal; Rouseff’s corrupt Vice President Temer took over and Lula was indicted for corruption by right-wing prosecutors appointed by the PT. The House of Cards in Brasilia became a grotesque comic opera with all the major players waltzing in and out of jail (except the impeached Rouseff).

But Professor Sader did not looked back in contemplation, let alone class analysis, at the 13 years of Worker Party power in coalition with the worst of Brazil’s crooks. Instead, he bellowed that Lula’s former allies, the corrupt politicians from the right-wing parties, had unjustly ousted the PT. These ‘traitors’ were the same politicians that Professor Sader embraced as ‘strategic allies’ from 2003 to 2014. Any serious observer could understand why Lula’s was first embraced and then divorced by the financial elite – for its own class interest.

Lula and Dilma’s ‘Three-Cornered Ménage’ with Bankers

Contrary to Sader’s PT propaganda and the predictably ill-informed kudos of Chomsky, et al, the Workers Party policies benefited the banks and the agro-business elites above all others, to the detriment of the popular movements and the Brazilian people. Brazilian investment bank revenues rose from $200 million dollars in 2004 to $1.6 billion dollars in 2007 and remained close to the peak until the commodity crash reduced bank revenues drastically. Likewise, the financial speculators and corporate monopolies took part in the capitalist bonanza under Presidents Lula and Dilma. Merger and acquisitions (M&As) rose from $40 billion in 2007 to $140 billion in 2010 but then sharply declined with the drop in world commodity prices down to $25 billion in 2015. The banks made billions of dollars in management fees for arranging the M&A’s over the eight-year period (2007-2015).

The Fall of Banking Revenues and the Rise of Corporate Activists

If we examine Brazilian merger and acquisitions activity and investment bank revenues, one sees a close correlation with the rise and fall of the PT regime. In other words, when the bankers, speculators and monopolists flourished under the PT policies, they supported the government of Lula and Dilma. When the export agro-mining commodity boom collapsed, slashing profits, management fees and interest, the financial sector immediately mobilized their right-wing allies in congress, allied prosecutors and judges and successfully pushed for Dilma’s impeachment, Lula’s indictment, the arrest of former PT allies and the appointment of Vice President Temer to the Presidency.

With the recession fully underway, the business and banking elite demanded large-scale, long-term cuts in public expenditures, slashing budgets for the poor, education, health, housing and pensions, severe wage reduction and a sharp limit on consumer credit. At the same time they pushed through the privatization of the multi-billion dollar petroleum industry (Petrobras) and related state industries, as well as public ports, airlines and airfields, highways and whatever else among Brazil’s public jewels could compensate for their drop in investment bank revenues and management fees for M&As.

For the finance sector, Lula and Dilma’s main crime lay in their reluctance to impose the brutal ‘new austerity policies’ fast enough or totally privatize public enterprises, reverse subsidies to the destitute, freeze wages and slash social budgets for the next two decades.

As soon as the economic elite successfully ousted President Dilma Rousseff through a legislative ‘coup’, their newly enthroned (Vice) President Michel Temer rose to the task: He immediately announced the privatization of Petrobras and froze health and educational budget for the next twenty years. Instead of recognizing the true nature of the ruling class interests behind the coup against Dilma and the arrest of Lula, the PT party hacks and writers denounced political ‘plotters’ and “traitors” and imperialist agents … puppets who were only following orders from the banking and export elite.

After the fall of Dilma and faced with resounding defeats in the 2016 municipal elections wiping out almost all of the PT big city mayors and city officials, Lula finally called for a ‘Left Front’ – fifteen years after having pursued an allied bankers’ front!

Reflections on a Debacle

What stands out is how pro-PT intellectuals and writers have failed to understand that the party’s vulnerability, opportunism and corruption were present early on and reflected the class composition, policy decisions and lack of ethical principles among the PT leadership. Wide-eyed and seduced at their warm reception at PT functions and international conferences, the ill-informed US, Canadian and European intellectuals understood nothing about the real structural and strategic flaws within the party and instead published hundreds of shallow ‘puff pieces’ about Lula’s poverty reduction, minimum wage increases, and consumer credit – ignoring the real nature of class power in Brazil.

Apparently, they threw out two centuries of even the most basic grammar school level history lessons describing the cyclical boom and bust nature of commodity export economies. They ignored a half-century of left-right ‘populist front’ governments, which collapsed into coups once bourgeois support was withdrawn – and instead whined about ‘betrayals’ – as if the elite were capable of anything else.

The fundamental problem was not the stratospheric intellectual pronouncements – the key was the economic and political strategies and policies under Lula and Dilma

The PT Presidents failed to diversify the economy, institute an industrial program, impose content regulations on foreign producers, nationalize the banks and monopolies, prosecute corrupt political officials (including PT leaders) and stop the practice of funding political campaigns through kick-back rewards for rotten deals with construction contractor-cronies.

Once in power, the PT ran expensive campaigns with heavy mass media saturation, while rejecting their own twenty years of effective class struggle that had built the political party with a strong working class cadre.

By the time it was elected to the presidency, the PT membership had shifted dramatically – from workers to middle class professionals. By 2002, 70% of active party members were professionals. They formed the leadership base running for office, designed the new strategies and forged new allies.

The PT discarded its popular class allies in order to gain short-term capitalist alliances based on the export commodity boom economy. During the height of the ‘boom’ they managed to satisfy the bankers and stockbrokers, while providing some subsidies to workers and the poor. When the budgets and the boom economy crashed, the business allies turned against the PT. Meanwhile, the PT had also lost its mass base, which was experiencing double-digit unemployment. The once reliable PT voters knew that, while they suffered, some of their ‘Workers Party’ leaders had become millionaires through corruption and were living in ‘soap-opera’-style luxury. They could imagine them consulting their gold Rolex watches so not to miss an appointment with the corrupt contractors…

Lacking critical and knowledgeable advisers, depending on allies and ministers from the capitalist elite, abandoning the politics of class struggle, and failing to implement any national industrial strategy – including the most basic processing of Brazil’s agro-mineral products, the Left disintegrated losing Latin America’s historic best opportunity to build a workers’ and peasant government from below.

The fiasco of left intellectuals and politicos is not confined to the case of Brazil. The same capitulation to the hard-right keeps happening: In the US, France, England, Greece and Portugal, there were the Bernie Sanders, Noam Chomskys and a small army of left journalists and identity activists rushing to support the candidacy of Hillary Clinton — the most bellicose imperial politician in recent memory. Despite her record of supporting or launching seven wars, creating twenty-million refugees and over one million deaths, despite her reckless advocacy of nuclear war with Russia over Syria, the self-declared ‘anti-fascists’ joined hands to support a recidivist catastrophe-candidate, whose only real success would be her million-dollar speeches before the financial elite and speculators! But then again, the famously furious Greek Left voted for Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras who then imposed history’s worst peacetime austerity program on the people of Greece. It must console Lula and Dilma to know they have plenty of company among the left politicians who speak to the workers and work for the bankers.

James Petras is author of  The End of the Republic and the Delusion of EmpireExtractive Imperialism in the Americas: Capitalism’s New Frontier (with Henry Veltmeyer), and The Politics of Empire: The US, Israel and the Middle EastRead other articles by James, or visit James’s website.

 

May 302014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

The European parliamentary elections witnessed a major breakthrough for the right-wing parties throughout the region.  The rise of the Right runs from the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom, the Baltic and Low countries, France, Central and Eastern Europe to the Mediterranean.

Most, if not all, of these emerging right-wing parties mark a sharp break with the ruling neo-liberal, Christian and Social Democratic parties who have presided over a decade of crisis.

The ‘new Right’ cannot be understood simply by attaching negative labels (‘fascist’, ‘racist’ and ‘anti-Semitic’).  The rise of the Right has to be placed in the context of the decay of political, social and economic institutions, the general and persistent decline of living standards and the disintegration of community bonds and class solidarity. The entire existing political edifice constructed by the neo-liberal parties bears deep responsibility for the systemic crisis and decay of everyday life.  Moreover, this is how it is understood by a growing mass of working people who vote for the Right.

The so-called ‘radical Left’, usually defined as the political parties to the left of the governing Social Democratic parties, with the exception of SYRIZA in Greece, have failed to capitalize on the decline of the neo-liberal parties.  There are several reasons that account for the lack of a right-left polarization.  Most of the ‘radical Left’, in the final account, gave ‘critical support’ to one or another of the Labor or Social Democratic parties and reduced their ‘distance’ from the political-economic disasters that have followed.  Secondly, the ‘radical Left’s’ positions on some issues were irrelevant or offensive to many workers: namely, gay marriage and identity politics.  Thirdly, the radical Left recruited prominent personalities from the discredited Labor and Social Democratic parties and thus raised suspicion that they are a ‘new version’ of past deceptions. Fourthly, the radical Left is strong on public demonstrations demanding ‘structural changes’ but lacks the ‘grass roots’ clientelistic organizations of the Right, which provide ‘services’, such as soup kitchens and clinics dealing with day-to-day problems.

While the Right pretends to be ‘outside’ the neo-liberal establishment challenging the assumption of broad powers by the Brussels elite, the Left is ambiguous: Its support for a ‘social Europe’ implies a commitment to reform a discredited and moribund structure.  The Right proposes ‘national capitalism’ outside of Brussels; the Left proposes ‘socialism within the European Union’.  The Left parties, the older Communist parties and more recent groupings, like Syriza in Greece, have had mixed results.  The former have generally stagnated or lost support despite the systemic crisis.  The latter, like Syriza, have made impressive gains but failed to break the 30% barrier.  Both lack electoral allies.  As a result, the immediate challenge to the neo-liberal status quo comes from the electoral new Right parties and on the left from the extra-parliamentary social movements and trade unions.  In the immediate period, the crisis of the European Union is being played out between the neo-liberal establishment and the ‘new Right’.

The Nature of the New Right

The ‘new Right’ has gained support largely because it has denounced the four pillars of the neo-liberal establishment:  globalization, foreign financial control, executive rule by fiat (the Brussels troika) and the unregulated influx of cheap immigrant labor.

Nationalism, as embraced by the new Right, is tied to national capitalism:  Local producers, retailers and farmers are counterpoised to free traders, mergers and acquisitions by international bankers and the giant multinationals. The ‘new Right’ has its audience among the provincial and small town business elite as well as workers devastated by plant closures and relocations.

The ‘new Right’s’ nationalism is ‘protectionist’ – seeking tariff barriers and state regulations to protect industries and workers from ‘unfair’ competition from overseas conglomerates and low-wage immigrant labor.

The problem is that protectionism limits the imports of cheap consumer goods sold in many small retail shops and affordable to workers and the lower middle class.  The Right ‘dreams’ of a corporatist model where national workers and industries bond to oppose liberal competitive capitalism and class struggle trade unions.  As the class struggle declines, the ‘tri partite’ politics of the neo-liberal right is reconfigured by the New Right to include ‘national’ capital and a ‘paternalistic state’.

In sum, the nationalism of the Right evokes a mythical past of harmony where national capital and labor unite under a common communal identity to confront big foreign capital and cheap immigrant labor.

Political Strategy: Electoral and Extra-Parliamentary Politics

Currently, the new Right is primarily oriented to electoral politics, especially as it gains mass support.  They have increased their share of the electorate by combining mass mobilization and community organizing with electoral politics, especially in depressed areas. They have attracted middle class voters from the neo-liberal right and working class voters from the old Left.  While some sectors of the Right, like the Golden Dawn in Greece, openly flaunt fascist symbols – flags and uniforms – as well as provoking street brawls, others pressure the governing neo-liberal right to adopt some of their demands especially regarding immigration and the ‘deportation of illegals’.  For the present, most of the new Right’s focus is on advancing its agenda and gaining supporters through aggressive appeals within the constitutional order and by keeping the more violent sectors under control.  Moreover, the current political climate is not conducive to open extra-parliamentary ‘street fighting’ where the new Right would be easily crushed.  Most right-wing strategists believe the current context is conducive to the accumulation of forces via peaceful methods.

Conditions Facilitating the Growth of the Right

There are several structural factors contributing to the growth of the new Right in Europe:

First and foremost, there is a clear decline of democratic power and institutions resulting from the centralization of executive – legislative power in the hands of a self-appointed elite in Brussels.  The new Right argues effectively that the European Union has become a profoundly authoritarian political institution disenfranchising voters and imposing harsh austerity programs without a popular mandate.

Secondly, national interests have been subordinated to benefit the financial elite identified as responsible for the harsh policies that have undermined living standards and devastated local industries.  The new Right counterpoises ‘the nation’ to the Brussels ‘Troika’ – the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission.

Thirdly, ‘liberalization’ has eroded local industries and undermined communities and protective labor legislation.  The Right denounces liberal immigration policies, which permit the large-scale inflow of cheap workers at a time of depression level unemployment.  The crisis of capitalism combined with the large force of cheap immigrant labor forms the material basis for right-wing appeals to workers, especially those in precarious jobs or unemployed.

Right:  Contradictions and the Double Discourse

The Right, while criticizing the neo-liberal state for unemployment, focuses mainly on the immigrants competing with nationals in the labor market rather than on the capitalists whose investment decisions determine levels of employment and unemployment.

The Right attacks the authoritarian nature of the European Union, but its own structures, ideology and history pre-figure a repressive state.

The Right rightly proposes to end foreign elite control of the economy, but its own vision of a ‘national state’, especially one linked to NATO, multi-national corporations and imperial wars, will provide no basis for ‘rebuilding the national economy’.

The Right speaks to the needs of the dispossessed and the need to ‘end austerity’ but it eschews the only effective mechanism for countering inequalities – class organization and class struggle.  Its vision of the ‘collaboration between productive capital and labor’ is contradicted by the aggressive capitalist offensive to cut wages, social services, pensions and working conditions.  The new Right targets immigrants as the cause of unemployment while obscuring the role of the capitalists who hire and fire, invest abroad, relocate firms and introduce technology to replace labor.

They focus the workers’ anger ‘downward’ against immigrants, instead of ‘upward’ toward the owners of the means of production, finance and distribution who ultimately manipulate the labor market.

In the meantime the radical Left’s mindless defense of unlimited immigration in the name of an abstract notion of ‘international workers solidarity’ exposes their arrogant liberal bias, as though they had never consulted real workers who have to compete with immigrants for scarce jobs under increasingly unfavorable conditions.

The radical Left, under the banner of ‘international solidarity’, has ignored the historical fact that ‘internationalism’ must be built on the strong national foundation of organized, employed workers.

The Left has allowed the new Right to exploit and manipulate powerful righteous nationalist causes.  The radical Left has counterpoised ‘nationalism’ to socialism, rather than seeing them as intertwined, especially in the present context of an imperialist-dominated European Union.

The fight for national independence, the break-up of the European Union, is essential to the struggle for democracy and the deepening of the class struggle for jobs and social welfare. The class struggle is more powerful and effective on the familiar national terrain – rather than confronting distant overseers in Brussels.

The notion among many radical Left leaders to ‘remake’ the EU into a ‘Social Europe’, the idea that the EU could be converted into a ‘European Union of Socialist States’ simply prolongs the suffering of the workers and the subordination of nations to the non-elected bankers who run the EU.  No one seriously believes that buying stocks in Deutsch Bank and joining its annual stockholders meetings would allow workers to ‘transform’ it into a ‘People’s Bank’.  Yet the ‘Bank of the Banks’, the ‘Troika’, made up of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF, set all major policies for each member state of the European Union. Un-rectified and remaining captive of the ‘Euro-metaphysic’, the Left has abdicated its role in advancing the class struggle through the rebirth of the national struggle against the EU oligarchs.

Results and Perspectives

The Right is advancing rapidly, even if unevenly across Europe. Its support is not ephemeral but stable and cumulative at least in the medium run.  The causes are ‘structural’ and result from the new Right’s ability to exploit the socio-economic crisis of the neo-liberal right governments and to denounce authoritarian and anti-national policies of the unelected EU oligarchy.

The new Right’s strength is in ‘opposition’.  Their protests resonate while they are distant from the command centers of the capitalist economy and state.

Are they capable of moving from protest to power?  Shared power with the neo-liberals will obviously dilute and disaggregate their current social base.

The contradictions will deepen as the new Right moves from positions of ‘opposition’ to sharing power with the neo-liberal Right.  The massive roundups and deportation of immigrant workers is not going to change capitalist employment policies or restore social services or improve living standards.  Promoting ‘national’ capital over foreign through some corporatist union of capital and labor will not reduce class conflict.  It is totally unrealistic to imagine ‘national’ capital rejecting its foreign partners in the interest of labor.

The divisions within the ‘nationalist Right’, between the overtly fascist and electoral corporatist sectors, will intensify.  The accommodation with ‘national’ capital, democratic procedures and social inequalities will likely open the door to a new wave of class conflict which will expose the sham radicalism of the ‘nationalist’ right.  A committed Left, embedded in the national terrain, proud of its national and class traditions, and capable of unifying workers across ethnic and religious ‘identities’ can regain supporters and re-emerge as the real alternative to the two faces of the Right – the neo-liberal and the ‘nationalist’ new Right.  The prolonged economic crisis, declining living standards, unemployment and personal insecurity propelling rise of the nationalist Right can also lead to the emergence of a Left deeply linked to national, class and community realities.  The neo-liberals have no solutions to offer for the disasters and problems of their own making; the nationalists of the new Right have the wrong -reactionary – answer.  Does the Left have the solution?  Only by overthrowing the despotic imperial rule of Brussels can they begin to address the national-class issues.

Post-script and final observations:

In the absence of a Left alternative, the working class voters have opted for two alternatives: Massive voter abstention and strikes.  In the recent EU election, 60% of the French electorate abstained, with abstention approaching 80% in working class neighborhoods.  This pattern was repeated or even exceeded throughout the EU – hardly a mandate for the EU or for the ‘new Right’.  In the weeks and days before the vote, workers took to the streets.  There were massive strikes of civil servants and shipyard workers, as well as workers from other sectors and mass demonstrations by the unemployed and popular classes opposing EU-imposed ‘austerity’ cuts in social services, health, education, pensions, factory closures and mass lay-offs.  Widespread voter abstention and street demonstrations point to a huge proportion of the population rejecting both the neo-Liberal Right of the ‘Troika’ as well as the ‘new Right’.

Mar 082014
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto, 99GetSmart

Source: CADTM Europe

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The CADTM affirms its full and complete solidarity with the people of Cyprus and their organisations struggling against privatizations in the energy, telecoms, and shipping sectors – privatizations required by the Memorandum imposed by the Troika in March 2013. Cyprus is the fourth country to be placed under the budgetary supervision of the European Union, after Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

In the face of the demonstrations of 27 February (a 3-day renewable strike by Electricity Authority of Cyprus workers and a strike by longshoremen at the ports of Limassol and Larnaca), the Parliament was unable to reach a majority to adopt the initial bill (25 votes for, 25 against, 5 abstentions; a majority of 29 is required for adoption). The following day the government handed in its resignation. The media, in total complicity with the Troika, have observed total silence over this situation – an extraordinary one, to say the least.

Despite the refusal expressed by the population in the streets, the Cypriot legislators have just adopted (4 March), by a vote of 30 to 26, a bill that is only a slightly modified version of the one they had themselves rejected the preceding week and which would result in the privatisation of the major public services: EAC (electricity), CYTA (telecoms), and CPA (the port authority). This new version of the law claims to guarantee the jobs of the employees of these companies, but no one actually believes that.

Adoption of the law was a condition for the granting of a new 236-million € tranche of the 10-Bn € loan granted by the Troika in March 2013.

The causes of the crisis in Cyprus have been clearly identified: 

1) A hypertrophied banking system
 that was completely out of control. The banks, who have considerable liquid assets provided by the “financial markets,” have recklessly made risky investments.

In 2012, Cyprus’s banks speculated on the restructuring of the Greek debt – 40% of their external commitments, which cost them 4.5 Bn €, or the equivalent of a quarter of Cyprus’s GDP, and brought on the collapse of this overinflated sector (whose assets represent seven times the country’s GDP).

These private losses were then promptly transformed into public debt. These debts are totally illegitimate and must be abolished, along with those stemming from the assistance plan!

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In 2009 and 2010, Cyprus’s public debt was only 52.4% and 60.8% of GDP, whereas in the Euro zone as a whole it was 80% of GDP in 2010.

In Germany, the percentage was 74.5% in 2009 and 82.5% in 2010.

2) A tax situation that is highly advantageous for companies: Corporate tax, which until the Memorandum was at an official rate of 10%, has only been raised to 12.5% (not enough to resolve the budget deficit).

To obtain the 10-Bn € assistance plan from the Troika (9 Bn € from the ECB and 1 Bn € from the IMF), Cyprus’s government also agreed to the restructuring of its banking system, a 10% reduction in public expenditures, and the privatization of the island’s main public sectors.

The IMF, represented in Cyprus by a former executive of Lehman Brothers, itself recognizes the economic ineffectualness of such measures. The IMF’s goal is not to provide support for the population of Cyprus, but to protect and guarantee the interests of the creditors! That is why the agents of the IMF must be run out of Cyprus, along with the representatives of the European Commission and the ECB!

Aside from the obvious risk of growth in unemployment (forecast to reach 19.4% in 2014), Cypriots fear skyrocketing prices, with wages and pensions already reduced by 20% in one year. The people’s mobilisation, practically uninterrupted for months, goes well beyond the industry sectors that are directly concerned.

Rubbish bins brought by the population are piled up in front of bank branches. There are regular interruptions of electrical power and the people are besieging the Parliament and official buildings. All sectors, both private and public, are present around the Parliament, demonstrating their opposition to the Troika’s structural adjustment plan.

The CADTM considers:

  • that the entire debt of Cyprus to the Troika is illegitimate and odious, and must be abolished in its entirety;
  • that the austerity plan imposed by the Troika must be revoked.

The population does not want to pay for the speculators and the wealthiest 1%. International solidarity must organise as soon as possible in support of this exemplary struggle. The CADTM will do all it can.

Translation by Snake Arbusto

Photo : CC – Eu Council Eurozone
Discussion before the meeting begins : Christine LAGARDE, IMF ; Thomas WIESER, President of the EFC (Economic and Financial Committee) and Michael SARRIS, Finances Minister of Cyprus (on the right).

Nov 142013
 

By J. Iddhis Bing, 99GetSmart

Greeks protest austerity cuts in Syntagma Square, Athens. Photography by Elias Theodoropoulos

Greeks protest austerity cuts in Syntagma Square, Athens. Photography by Elias Theodoropoulos

It’s hard work getting the news from the news these days, especially if you want to know about a country like Greece. Far-away birthplace of democracy, a bit exotic, Mediterranean lifestyle, Zorba, rumored to be different. What does any of that mean? Strange things are happening there but what is going on precisely? The Greeks ran up quite a tab at the bar, or so the financial dailies tell us on a regular basis.

Almost everything we read is filtered through the point of view of the Troika – the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission – or the Greek government. We know that representatives of the Troika – established during the first stage of Greece’s “rescue” in May 2010 – have been in Greece since Tuesday of last week, meeting with the Greek government about the latest round of potential bailouts for that country. Beyond the leaks from either side, the rest, for us at any rate, is guesswork.

As of Tuesday evening, November 12, no decision had been announced. The Troika is typically very business-like with its clients, out with the whip, sign here, see you later – and then the next round of what the press like to call “belt-tightening” begins. The coalition government survived a no-confidence vote on Monday the 11th but that hardly quelled the sense that they are a very fragile edifice indeed. The people are out in the streets on a constant basis. They’re an after-thought, at least as far as the world’s media is concerned.

We do know a few things: that the Troika is a quasi-legal junta, created during the first stage of Greece’s trauma. The IMF was invited to the party at the insistence of Angela Merkel. Readers with long memories may remember that Dominique Strauss-Kahn was on his way to meet Merkel to present his plan to “save Greece,” when he was abruptly detained in New York.

The Troika’s mission is to enforce an austerity program that includes the selling-off of government assets and the decimation of public services, and that even within the IMF, there is dissension over the absurd goal of turning Greece into a productive satellite of Germany. We also know or suspect that any “bailout” of Greece will only impoverish the country yet further. That’s the public record regarding employment, savings, pensions, access to housing and food. You can read it here on Ground Report and find it many other places as well.

Language, meanwhile, gets so knocked around by the pros it throws its hands up in despair. Defeat comes at the price of rational thought: being rescued by the Troika means becoming a pauper in your own country, means your pension has vanished, you are a month or so away from losing the roof over your head and your hand is in the garbage looking for food.

None of the rescues perpetrated by the Troika have successfully rescued their target countries but instead have pitched them ever further into chaos. Bailouts are not a transfusion of money but a way of channeling money from one country (Germany, in this case) to another country (Greece) where the money is then re-routed to banks in, among other places, Germany and France in the form of debt payments.

The conservative government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, along with his coalition partner, Socialist Evangelos Venizelos, is said to be desperate not to tamper with what they consider Greece’s “success story,” one which includes massive unemployment and at least 20 percent of the population dependent on soup kitchens for the next meal. His figure is 700 million Euros to meet the debt payment schedule. The Troika is said to be looking for 2.9 billion Euros in savings from the current budget.

That explains the lack of an agreement since last Tuesday at least in part. The Troika is being held hostage. Round One to Greece.

Spectacularly, no one in the government mentions the list of 2,062 Greeks who are holding at least $1.95 billion in secret Swiss bank accounts. A list the government has had in its possession for at least three years without a single prosecution. (Interested readers can learn more here.) Articles in the local press do muse a bit about “tax collection” being a bit in arrears but without much enthusiasm.

Rumblings, such as they are, continue to be at such a low volume they can be hard to hear. Internal documents leaked from the IMF last week reveal that as early as May 2010, more than 40 IMF member states, all outside Europe, were opposed to the aid plan drawn up for Athens. (This in a report from last week’s Wall Street Journal.) The Troika itself is said to be headed for divorce. “The ECB must refrain from intervening in highly political decisions with its advice on taxes or cuts in spending. And yet that is just what it has been doing inside the troika. It must get out of it as soon as possible,” says Paul De Grauwe, a professor at the London School of Economics. In June of this year, a high official at the IMF publicly disagreed with the Troika’s agenda in Greece.

Even the pro-government publication Ekathimerini paints a decidedly gloomy picture: “Unfortunately, what this means in practical terms is that the current political system is not in a position to lead the country any further in terms of reforms. It doesn’t truly believe in these reforms and it does not have the stamina to clash with its traditional clientele,” writes Alexis Papachelas on November 10. Not exactly a ringing endorsement from a pro-government journo.

In other words: it isn’t working, it isn’t working at all, and yet our bedazzled technocrats continue to insist that it does, even if they don’t particularly believe it either. It’s the way the world does its “business.” Consider this: the Financial Times reported last weekend that Stephen King, chief economist at HSBC, “discovered” that nearly all of his bank’s country forecasts stated that the country-in-question planned to export its way to growth. (Ah, growth, endless growth. The Holy Grail, the never-ending rainbow at the end of the road. Line it up next to the other sacred cows, bailouts and rescues, and fire away.) Where they will all export to is the question, with every other country on earth frantically exporting its way to prosperity. Mars and Venus are at the head of the list, and why not? (William Pfaff has more on this.)

Greece lost some 35,000 jobs in October. So much for that success story. My sense is that the Troika’s technocrats simply live too high up in the stratosphere – somewhere near their very own cloud 9 – to be concerned with anything so gritty as jobs or hunger or survival. For them “the people” are an abstraction on the order of heroic rescues and bailouts.

The Washington Consensus is dead. Long Live the Consensus! The world, meanwhile, hangs by a thread. No one believes, fewer and fewer people vote and countries like Greece twist in the wind. Who reaps the advantage? The far right, the angry ones, the xenophobes who see us lined against each other in a global race to the End of the Line. One wonders exactly when Angela Merkel and that ardent enemy of finance François Hollande will get the message. (Before or after the rainbow? Place your bets here.)

The Troika, intent on getting in and out of Greece quickly with as few questions asked as possible, seem to have gotten stuck in transit. On Tuesday night, they were so afraid of angry cleaning ladies demonstrating in front of the Finance Ministry that they crawled on hands and knees out the building’s fire-escape to an underground garage en route to their own private cloud. That might not be, to employ yet another word that’s taken a few body blows, progress, but if a modern-day Aristophanes was anywhere nearby, he can make use of it.

As of Wednesday morning, November 13, no agreement between Greece and the IMF was in sight.When there is one, we’ll take a close look at it to see if there are any changes to the formula that has had such devastating consequences for Greece.

Apr 072013
 

By Marie Dufaux, Eric Toussaint, CADTM

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This is a historical moment. On 23 and 24 March 2013, a coalition of left secular Tunisian political parties (in which there are 11 political formations) organised a meeting of Mediterranean region progressive parties to call for the abolition of the odious and illegitimate debts of Northern and Southern Mediterranean countries. Two half-days of debate produced a final declaration and were followed by a grand public conference bringing together over one thousand people and all the strength of the left-wing groups united for a common cause. |1|

Below are highlights of Eric Toussaint’s speech at this first Mediterranean coordination meeting against debt, austerity policies, and foreign domination, and for a free, united, democratic, social, solidarity-based, feminist, and environmentally responsible Mediterranean region.

Eric Toussaint, President of CADTM Belgium stressed that this budding political alliance is the continuation of the struggle initiated by Thomas Sankara, President of Burkina Faso, who was assassinated on the 15 October 1987, after he called on the people of Africa and the rest of the World to unite in a common combat for the non-payment of the illegitimate debt. It also extends the struggle of the martyrs of the Arab Spring, including Chokry Belaid, assassinated on 6 February 2013, not to forget Ahmed Ben Bella, the first President of independent Algeria, who died in April 2012, |2| and who, towards the end of his life, had made the abolition of illegitimate debt one of his principal struggles.

This new coordination is facing another major challenge. All too often, left-wing parties limit their engagement to a radical denouncement of illegitimate debt without giving the question further importance in their day to day public activities. Once they start to approach positions of power, some of them abandon their promises to put an end to illegitimate debt, and end up agreeing with the terms of repayment.

Eric Toussaint presented the initial definition of odious debt as debt taken on by a dictatorial regime such as that of Ben Ali. According to international law, when such a regime falls, the part of the debt that is odious falls with it, and therefore should not in any case be repaid. Of course, we must often fight for international law to be respected. To achieve this goal, only a strong social movement can convince a government to suspend payments and repudiate odious debt. It is therefore essential to create a favourable balance of power in order to defy the creditors.

Today, international law defines odious debt in terms of three criteria: |3|
the non-consent of the people in the indebted state;
the lack of advantages for the people in the indebted state;
the creditors were aware that the loans they consented were not in the interest of the people and were not approved by them.

The debt “owed” to the Troika (European Central Bank, European Commission and the IMF) by countries like Greece, Ireland, and Portugal should be denounced because it corresponds to these criteria: 1. The people in the countries concerned did not give their consent, and many governments elected on anti-austerity programmes bend to the will of the Troika once they are in power; 2. This debt is not favourable to the people, on the contrary, it is linked to violations of their economic, social, and civil rights (reductions in social services and wages, large scale lay-offs, difficulty in gaining access to health services and education, repeal of collective bargaining agreements, disregard for the democratic choices made by electors, legislative power that bows down to the executive); 3. The creditors (the Troika and bankers), know perfectly well that the loans they advance are not in the interest of the people, because they are made in order to pay off the debt and in exchange for drastic austerity measures. It is the Troika itself that imposes these violations of human rights and dictates its conditions to governments and parliaments of indebted countries.

As for the governments that have come into power since 2011 after the dictators Ben Ali and Mubarak, they have themselves taken on new debt, which is much more to the advantage of the creditors than to the people. This is done to pay back the odious debts inherited from the previous dictatorial regimes and to pursue policies weakening their countries. Therefore, this new debt is also odious.

Tunisia and Egypt are currently negotiating new arrangements with the IMF. |4| This is a fruitless process. If these loans are granted, they will be illegitimate for at least two reasons: they will be used to continue making repayments on inherited odious debt, and they will be linked to policies that are contrary to the interests of the people in these countries.

Other elements that may make a debt illegitimate

On the one hand, the debt may be the consequence of unjust fiscal policies. In real terms, states accord fiscal advantages to big (national and international) companies and the wealthiest households, this reduces tax revenues and deepens public budget deficits. These practices increase public debt, because the governments must again borrow in order to finance their budget. Debt taken on in these conditions is illegitimate to begin with because it is socially unjust.

On the other hand, it may derive from bank bail-outs. Since 2007, governments of the most industrialised countries have flown to the assistance of private banks, that are responsible for the crisis, injecting billions of euros into their capital and/or providing other guarantees. Any debt taken on to finance these bail-outs is equally illegitimate.

Creditors and governments maintain that debt must always be repaid without questioning its origins, even if they are illegitimate. Then they justify the imposition of anti-social austerity policies by insisting on the effort necessary to balance the budget. It is within this context that a growing percentage of the people in Mediterranean countries (and beyond) are rejecting the repayment of illegitimate debt. In some countries (Tunisia, Greece, Portugal, Spain, and France) citizens audits have been called for in order to identify the illegitimate part of public debt. They are seeking to establish how, why, and by whom the debt was taken on, and if it has really been used in the interest of the people. These citizens audit committees are seeking to convince as many people as possible that illegitimate debt must be repudiated.

Saying “NO” to the Creditors

It is possible and necessary to defy the International Financial Institutions and the Troika, to refuse the diktats of the private creditors in order to create leeway for improving the situation of a country and its people. As we can see in the following examples of several countries that have dared to say “No” to their creditors, it is worth being adamant.

Argentina’s suspension of debt repayments

At the end of December 2001, after three years of economic recession (1999 – 2001) and pressure from a massive popular rebellion that caused the fall of President De La Rua, Argentina decided to suspend payments, amounting to about $90 billion. This represented an important portion of its commercial debt.

Part of the money freed up was reinvested in the social sector, particularly in benefits paid to unemployed ’Piqueteros’. Some would claim that the real reason why Argentina recovered as of 2003-2004 is only because of the increase in the prices of its exports.

This affirmation is, however, false, because if Argentina had not suspended its debt repayments, the revenue from exports would have been swallowed up by them. The government would not have had the means necessary to stimulate economic activity. In addition, thanks to this suspension of payments that lasted until March 2005, Argentina was able to impose a 50% reduction of this debt on its creditors.

The CADTM, as well as numerous social movements and leftist parties proposed to Argentina to abolish, not only the debt that concerned private creditors, but also the IMF and other public creditors. The Argentine government did not follow this recommendation.

It is important to note that Argentina has also suspended payment of $6.5 billion to the Paris Club since 2001. So we see that twelve years later Argentina is still holding out against the Paris Club. In spite of the 44 law suits brought before the World Bank and recent threats of expulsion from the IMF, Buenos Aires maintains its position. Argentina has not borrowed on the financial markets since 2001, but the country continues to function!

The Argentine experience must not be misinterpreted. It is not to be taken as an example, and we always need to adopt a frankly critical point of view. The Argentine government has maintained Argentina within the bounds of capitalism, no structural reforms have been undertaken, Argentine economic growth is largely based on the extraction and the exportation of primary products (genetically modified soya beans, ores,…). Nevertheless, what Argentina has demonstrated is that saying “No” to the creditors is possible. Elsewhere, an authentic left-wing government could go much further on the basis of this precedent.

Ecuador: audit and suspension of payment

Ecuador gives us another example. In July 2007, seven months after his election, the Ecuadorian President Raphael Correa decided to instigate an audit of the country’s debt and the conditions in which it was contracted. An audit commission, made up of 18 experts including the CADTM, was created for this purpose. Its final report was presented after 14 months of investigation. It showed in particular that numerous loans had been contracted in violation of basic rules. In November 2008, the new administration, on the basis of this report decided to suspend the repayment of bonds payable in 2012 and 2030. Finally, the government of this small country came out on top in the tussle with North American bankers and those holding Ecuadorian securities. It repurchased bonds for less than $1 billion, which had a nominal value of $3.2 billion. Public finance thus saved $2.2 billion dollars of debt stock to which must be added $200 million a year (between 2008 and 2030) in interest payments. This allowed the government to allocate more means to social projects in health, education, social assistance, and communication infrastructure development. The Ecuadorian constitution now prohibits private debt from being transformed into public debt and illegitimate debt from being contracted. |5|

In addition, Ecuador no longer recognises the World Bank’s jurisdiction in international disputes court. It has rejected free trade treaty propositions from the US and UE. The Ecuadorian President has announced his intention to audit the current bi-lateral investment treaties. Finally, the Quito authorities have put an end to the US military presence on its territory.

In the case of Ecuador, we must again be careful not to hold up this ongoing experience as a model to be emulated. Critical analysis remains indispensable. Nonetheless, the Ecuadorian audit and unilateral suspension of payments experience shows that saying “No” to creditors is perfectly possible, and there are advantages to be gained in terms of making more means available for public health, education, and other sectors.

Iceland’: refusal to pay the demands made by the Netherlands and the UK

After its banking system collapsed in 2008, Iceland refused to compensate the British and Dutch savers who had put deposits amounting to €3.9 billion into subsidiaries of Iceland’s failed private banks. The British and Dutch authorities covered the losses to their citizens and presented the bill to Iceland. Under popular pressure (demonstrations, occupations, and referendums), the Reykjavik authorities refused to pay. Britain put Iceland on its terrorist list, froze its assets and, in conjunction with the Netherlands, sued Iceland the EFTA court. |6| Meanwhile, Iceland has completely blocked the outflow of capital. In the end, Iceland is faring better than the other European countries that accepted the conditions imposed by creditors. Here again we must not present Iceland as a model to be imitated, but learn from its experience.

These examples demonstrate that saying “NO” to creditors leads neither to catastrophe nor to the collapse of a country.

We must also recall that these experiences were preceded or accompanied by a popular movement that put pressure on the governments concerned. It is therefore important, as Eric Toussaint reminded us, that knowledge of this at times, complex question must conveyed to the whole of the population. The task of a public audit is to raise public awareness. The illegitimacy of public debt must become visible to the majority of people.

To conclude this workshop, Eric Toussaint repeated that the above examples are not to be taken to as political models to be followed, but that these experiences are a source of important political lessons!

Translation : Mike Krolikowski and Charles La Via

 

Footnotes

|1| See Pauline Imbach, “Tunis: Birth of a Common Front of Political Organisations Against Debt”,http://cadtm.org/Tunis-Birth-of-a-C…, published 25 March 2013.

|2| See Eric Toussaint, “Remembering Ahmed Ben Bella, first President of independent Algeria who passed away on the 11th April, 2012 at 96”, http://cadtm.org/Remembering-Ahmed-…, 12 April 2012.

|3| See CADTM, http://cadtm.org/Droits-devant, and in particular Stéphanie Jacquemont, “Que retenir du rapport de l’expert de l’ONU sur la dette et les droits humains ?”, http://cadtm.org/Que-retenir-du-rap… , 25 January 2013 (articles in French only).

|4http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/…

|5| See Eric Toussaint, “La Constitution équatorienne : un modèle en matière d’endettement public”,http://cadtm.org/La-constitution-eq… , 27 December, 2010 (in French only).

|6| The EFTA (European Free Trade Association) court, which is in no way a progressive organisation, has judged in favour of Iceland’s position. See CADTM, “EFTA court dismisses ’Icesave’ claims against Iceland and its people”, http://cadtm.org/EFTA-court-dismiss…, 29 January 2013.

Jan 062012
 

 

* NDAA AND OBAMA: DEFENDERS ARE WRONG – HERE’S WHY

Source: Cenk Uygur, The Young Turks

President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, a decision being defended by some partisan Democrats. The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur breaks down specifics in the bill to refute the claims made by the defenders of Obama and the NDAA.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gstBozWfhQ&feature=youtu.be

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* OCCUPY WALL STREET BUILDS FACEBOOK ALTERNATIVE

Source: Mobiledia, Forbes

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Occupy Wall Street activists are creating their own social networking site, hoping to establish protected digital protest space as physical camps continue to face legal problems.

The site, tentatively named The Global Square and expected to launch later this month, hopes to provide a place “where people of all nations can come together as equals to participate in the coordination of collective actions and the formulation of common goals and aspirations,” according to a post by Occupy-blog RoarMag.

The site’s creation arrives as Occupy movements around the globe face increasing scrutiny from politicians and law enforcement, with many physical locations forced to shut down due to concerns about hygiene, public safety, and environmental damage.

Activists also became nervous last week after a Massachusetts district attorney subpoenaed Twitter, forcing the social networking giant to disclose information from the @OccupyBoston account. Fearing a legal precedent, the Occupy development team is speeding up its efforts to carve out its own secure space on the Internet.

Social networking sites proved a valuable tool for large-scale protests in 2011, from Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. In Egypt, leader Hosni Mubarak shut off the country’s internet in an attempt to quell protesters from organizing via social networks, and governments are increasingly taking notice of organizational protest sites on Facebook.

“We don’t want to trust Facebook with private messages among activists,” said developer Ed Knutson to Wired. “I don’t want to say we’re making our own Facebook…but, we’re making our own Facebook.”

The Global Square differs from other social networking sites because it will remain open-source, allowing developers to continuously create new content. Perhaps for this reason, the site will also require users be invited by a friend or fellow protester, and will be closed to the general public.

Other planned unique features include a map of uprisings taking place around the world, links to find movements close by, debate forums, and collaboration space.

The Global Square could provide activists with the means for even larger protests in 2012, but also draw criticism if such gatherings become violent or are deemed inappropriate. Either way, the site will likely serve as a niche central communication hub for protesters across the globe.

READ @ http://www.forbes.com/sites/mobiledia/2012/01/03/occupy-wall-street-builds-facebook-alternative/

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* DAN SAVAGE ON RICK SANTORUM: HE’S NOT JUST ANTI-GAY, “HE HAS AN ANTI-STRAIGHT AGENDA TOO”

Source: youtube

On last night’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Dan Savage (of Santorum Google bomb fame) discussed how the candidate’s problematic views extend beyond homophobia. “One of the things I’m constantly reminding people about Rick Santorum is that he doesn’t have merely an anti-gay agenda — he has an anti-straight agenda too,” Savage told Olbermann. “He’s against birth control, he’s against abortion, he’s against pornography, he’s against all sorts of things that straight people use and enjoy frequently….You need to know, heterosexual Americans, that gay-bashing isn’t his only hobby.”

Watch the segment below:

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YimCRuvr8vE

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* HOW MANY STEPHEN COLBERTS ARE THERE?

By Charles McGrath, NYTimes MagazinePasted Graphic 2.tiff

Stephen Colbert dressing for a rehearsal of “The Colbert Report.”

There used to be just two Stephen Colberts, and they were hard enough to distinguish. The main difference was that one thought the other was an idiot. The idiot Colbert was the one who made a nice paycheck by appearing four times a week on “The Colbert Report” (pronounced in the French fashion, with both t’s silent), the extremely popular fake news show on Comedy Central. The other Colbert, the non-idiot, was the 47-year-old South Carolinian, a practicing Catholic, who lives with his wife and three children in suburban Montclair, N.J., where, according to one of his neighbors, he is “extremely normal.” One of the pleasures of attending a live taping of “The Colbert Report” is watching this Colbert transform himself into a Republican superhero.

Suburban Colbert comes out dressed in the other Colbert’s guise — dark two-button suit, tasteful Brooks Brothersy tie, rimless Rumsfeldian glasses — and answers questions from the audience for a few minutes. (The questions are usually about things like Colbert’s favorite sport or favorite character from “The Lord of the Rings,” but on one memorable occasion a young black boy asked him, “Are you my father?” Colbert hesitated a moment and then said, “Kareem?”) Then he steps onstage, gets a last dab of makeup while someone sprays his hair into an unmussable Romney-like helmet, and turns himself into his alter ego. His body straightens, as if jolted by a shock. A self-satisfied smile creeps across his mouth, and a manically fatuous gleam steals into his eyes.

Lately, though, there has emerged a third Colbert. This one is a version of the TV-show Colbert, except he doesn’t exist just on screen anymore. He exists in the real world and has begun to meddle in it. In 2008, the old Colbert briefly ran for president, entering the Democratic primary in his native state of South Carolina. (He hadn’t really switched parties, but the filing fee for the Republican primary was too expensive.) In 2010, invited by Representative Zoe Lofgren, he testified before Congress about the problem of illegal-immigrant farmworkers and remarked that “the obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables.”

But those forays into public life were spoofs, more or less. The new Colbert has crossed the line that separates a TV stunt from reality and a parody from what is being parodied. In June, after petitioning the Federal Election Commission, he started his own super PAC — a real one, with real money. He has run TV ads, endorsed (sort of) the presidential candidacy of Buddy Roemer, the former governor of Louisiana, and almost succeeded in hijacking and renaming the Republican primary in South Carolina. “Basically, the F.E.C. gave me the license to create a killer robot,” Colbert said to me in October, and there are times now when the robot seems to be running the television show instead of the other way around.

“It’s bizarre,” remarked an admiring Jon Stewart, whose own program, “The Daily Show,” immediately precedes “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central and is where the Colbert character got his start. “Here is this fictional character who is now suddenly interacting in the real world. It’s so far up its own rear end,” he said, or words to that effect, “that you don’t know what to do except get high and sit in a room with a black light and a poster.” […]

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/magazine/stephen-colbert.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all

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* AL GORE COMES OUT AGAINST SOPA/PIPA

By Mike Masnick, TechDirt

Well, check this out. Al Gore has come out strongly against SOPA and PIPA, angrily denouncing the bill and its supporters. It’s a quick 2-minute video taken at a CareerBuilder event, and it’s in response to an audience question. The actual question isn’t heard in the video, but he’s clearly talking about SOPA/PIPA and appears to be well-informed on the issue:

A quick transcript (the very beginning is cut off, so it comes in mid-sentence):

“… are now able to be shared digitally. There is a growing concern on the part of the companies and individuals who create that content, that they’re not getting compensated in a fair way, and so they want to impose a new set of requirements on those companies who provide access to the internet, like the browsers, the search engines, etc. And some of these new requirements, according to the experts on the internet, would very probably have the effect of really shutting down the vibrancy of the internet. As in all things, some compromise must be possible. The content creators and owners have a point and a legitimate complaint… But, in our country, in our world today, there is hardly anything more important — whether you want to solve global warming, as I do, whether you want to reinvigorate democracy as many of us do, whatever problem you want to fix — there is hardly anything more important to getting the right things done than to save and protect the vibrancy and freedom of the internet. The internet is bringing life back to democracy. We saw it in Egypt. We’re seeing it in Russia now. We’ve seen it in so many places…. If you look at the reform movements around the world, and in the US, more than likely they’re based on internet forms of organization. And anything that would threaten the vibrancy and freedom of the internet, I’m against!

There’s very loud applause at the end. If you watch it, you see he gets more and more animated and worked up towards the end. He’s also clearly familiar with the details, since he knows the real impact of the bill. Rather than just focusing on “foreign” sites, as supporters of these bills would like everyone to, he points out that the way in which this is done is to put new requirements on tons of domestic internet companies. He may not have invented the internet (and yes, I know that was taken out of context, but it’s a meme at this point, so live with it), but he certainly understands its importance… and he’s clearly not a fan of SOPA/PIPA. […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120105/18151717292/al-gore-comes-out-against-sopapipa.shtml

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* U.S. WAR HISTORY IN 2 MINUTES: ARREST U.S. WAR CRIMINALS TO STOP WAR ON IRAN

By Carl Herman, Washington’s Blog

“A mere demarcation on parchment of the constitutional limits (of government) is not a sufficient guard against those encroachments which lead to a tyrannical concentration of all the powers of government in the same hands.” – James Madison, Federalist Paper #48, 1788.

We were all born into a century of total deaths from government violence of over 230 million human beings. After two world wars, the US was the chief author of the treaty that makes war unlawful unless attacked by another nation’s military. As the links below document in conservative and now non-controversial history, current US wars continue a pattern of lie-started and unlawful wars.

Importantly, now, US military and/or law enforcement must arrest the current War Criminals to end this history of murder. If not, it will repeat by mass-murdering Iranians, and more ignorant/gullible US soldiers. The basis of law provides US military and all with Oaths to defend the US Constitution to refuse unlawful orders and act to arrest those who issue them.

US war history brief to put the present in context:

1. The US regularly violated treaties with Native Americans, as well as manipulating their meaning for the purpose of stealing their land.

2. US President Polk lied to Congress to initiate a War of Aggression in Mexico. The result was the US taking 40% of Mexico in 1848. This occurred despite Abraham Lincoln’s crystal-clear explanation as a member of Congress that the Adams-Onis Treaty placed the “border dispute” 400 miles within land forever promised to Mexico and forever promised as outside any US claim.

3. The US violated our treaty with Hawaii and stole their country in 1898.

4. The US reneged on promises of freedom after the Spanish American War to impose our rule on the Philippines and install US-friendly dictators in Cuba.

5. The US entered WW1 upon no national security threat to the US and put the 3rd party presidential candidate in prison for public speeches questioning the war.

6. The CIA had several covert wars; perhaps most important in today’s context of war on Iran: “Operation Ajax” that overthrew Iran’s democracy and installed a US-friendly and brutal dictator.  When that dictator was overthrown and Iran refused another, the US aided Iraq to unlawfully invade and attack Iran from 1980-1988; killing up to a million Iranians. If the US lied and acted twice to unlawfully overthrew Iran’s democracy within our own lifetimes, shouldn’t we assume first another lie-stared unlawful war today? Upon confirmation of the lies (documented below), shouldn’t we arrest the US War Criminals rather than allow them to kill again?!?

7. The Vietnam War occurred after the US allowed the cancellation of an election to unify the country, as escalated with the Gulf of Tonkin incident: false intelligence at best, but then manipulated into a false-flag event for a “defensive” war.

8. Perhaps most disturbing is the King Family civil suit that found the US government guilty in the assassination of Dr. King. Corporate media, including our text publishers, omit this history. The King family’s conclusion is that Martin was assassinated to prevent his “Occupy DC” plan beginning for the sumer of 1968 to end his version of today’s wars.

9. We now know from Congressional reports that all “reasons” for war with Iraq were known to be false as they were told.

10. The two “reasons” for war with Iran are as false as the “reasons” for war with Iraq. Beware a false flag attack by the US or Israel to blame on Iran as pretext for another “defensive” war:

  1. Iran’s president never physically threatened Israel.
  2. All of Iran’s nuclear material is fully accounted for peaceful and legal use for energy and medicine.

Want a brighter future? Recognize and end the “emperor has no clothes” obvious crimes of the present as a first step. Standing for a US government that defends unalienable rights that begin with “life,” the freedom that government will not murder, is a good place to start. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/01/us-war-history-in-2-minutes-arrest-us-war-criminals-to-stop-war-on-iran.html

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* FALLUJAH BABIES: UNDER A NEW KIND OF SIEGE

Doctors and residents blame US weapons for catastrophic levels of birth defects in Fallujah’s newborns

By Dahr Jamail, Aljazeera English

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Congenital abnormalities have mushroomed in the wake of devastating sieges in Fallujah in 2004 (EPA)
Fallujah, Iraq– While the US military has formally withdrawn from Iraq, doctors and residents of Fallujah are blaming weapons like depleted uranium and white phosphorous used during two devastating US attacks on Fallujah in 2004 for what are being described as “catastrophic” levels of birth defects and abnormalities.Dr Samira Alani, a paediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital, has taken a personal interest in investigating an explosion of congenital abnormalities that have mushroomed in the wake of the US sieges since 2005.”We have all kinds of defects now, ranging from congenital heart disease to severe physical abnormalities, both in numbers you cannot imagine,” Alani told Al Jazeera at her office in the hospital, while showing countless photos of shocking birth defects.As of December 21, Alani, who has worked at the hospital since 1997, told Al Jazeera she had personally logged 677 cases of birth defects since October 2009. Just eight days later when Al Jazeera visited the city on December 29, that number had already risen to 699.”There are not even medical terms to describe some of these conditions because we’ve never seen them until now,” she said. “So when I describe it all I can do is describe the physical defects, but I’m unable to provide a medical term.”

‘Incompatible with life’

Most of these babies in Fallujah die within 20 to 30 minutes after being born, but not all.

Four-year-old Abdul Jaleel Mohammed was born in October 2007. His clinical diagnosis includes dilation of two heart ventricles, and a growth on his lower back that doctors have not been able to remove.

Abdul has trouble controlling his muscles, struggles to walk, cannot control his bladder, and weakens easily. Doctors told his father, Mohamed Jaleel Abdul Rahim, that his son has severe nervous system problems, and could develop fluid build-up in his brain as he ages, which could prove fatal.

“This is the first instance of something like this in all our family,” Rahim told Al Jazeera. “We lived in an area that was heavily bombed by the Americans in 2004, and a missile landed right in front of our home. What else could cause these health problems besides this?”

Dr Alani told Al Jazeera that in the vast majority of cases she has documented, the family had no prior history of congenital abnormalities.

Alani showed Al Jazeera hundreds of photos of babies born with cleft palates, elongated heads, a baby born with one eye in the centre of its face, overgrown limbs, short limbs, and malformed ears, noses and spines.

She told Al Jazeera of cases of “thanatophoric dysplasia”, an abnormality in bones and the thoracic cage that “render the newborn incompatible with life”.

Rahim said many of his relatives that have had babies after 2004 are having problems as well.

“One of them was born and looks like a fish,” Rahim said. “I also personally know of at least three other families who live near us who have these problems also.”

For now, the family is worried how Abdul will fare in school when he is enrolled next year. Maloud Ahmed Jassim, Abdul’s grandfather, added, “We’ve seen so many miscarriages happen, and we don’t know why.”

“The growth on his back is so sensitive and painful for him,” Rahim said. “What will happen in school?”

Jassim is angered by a lack of thorough investigations into the health crisis.

“Why is the government not investigating this,” he asked. “Western media seem interested, but neither our local media nor the government are. Why not?”

In April 2011, Iraqi lawmakers debated whether the US attacks on the city constituted genocide. Resolutions that called for international prosecution, however, went nowhere.

Scientific proof

Alani, along with Dr Christopher Busby, a British scientist and activist who has carried out research into the risks of radioactive pollution, collected hair samples from 25 parents of families with children who have birth defects and sent them to a laboratory in Germany for analysis.

Alani and Busby, along with other doctors and researchers, published a study in September 2011 from data obtained by analysing the hair samples, as well as soil and water samples from the city.

Mercury, Uranium, Bizmuth and other trace elements were found.

The report’s conclusion states:

“Whilst caution must be exercised about ruling out other possibilities, because none of the elements found in excess are reported to cause congenital diseases and cancer except Uranium, these findings suggest the enriched Uranium exposure is either a primary cause or related to the cause of the congenital anomaly and cancer increases. Questions are thus raised about the characteristics and composition of weapons now being deployed in modern battlefields.” […]

NOTE: VIDEO / PHOTOS CONTAIN VERY GRAPHIC IMAGES

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=0B-7oT-DUJo

READ and PHOTOS @ http://dahrjamail.net/fallujah-babies-under-a-new-kind-of-siege

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* WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE PERSIAN GULF EXPLAINED

Why Iran is talking tough, the US is maneuvering warships, and gasoline is getting more expensive by the hour

By Adam Weinstein and Hamed Aleaziz, Mother Jones

Pasted Graphic 3.tiffNATO/Flickr

The basics: Iran and the United States appear to be heading for a showdown in the Persian Gulf. Amid already-high tensions over Iran’s advancing nuclear program, the US has imposed harsh new economic sanctions on the regime in Tehran. The sanctions have throttled Iran’s economy, and the country has responded by threatening to shut down the Gulf to all shipping traffic. Iranian officials have also threatened military action against the United States and its allies in the region if they don’t back off. Two US aircraft carriers are en route to the region.

How has the situation escalated? Over New Year’s weekend, the Iranians announced that they’d made their first-ever nuclear fuel rods, potentially a major step forward in building a nuclear bomb.* Then they test-fired three anti-ship missiles in the Strait of Hormuz, a 34-mile-wide choke point in the Persian Gulf through which approximately 20 percent of the world’s crude oil is transported. An Iranian admiral told state TV that the shots were a warning to America: “The control of the Strait of Hormuz is completely under our authority [too],” he said, warning that Iran would attack “any enemy” that endangered Iranian interests. In response, the US has sent two aircraft carriers steaming toward the Gulf to replace the USS John C. Stennis, which just ended its own Mideast deployment. “Iran advises, recommends and warns them [the US] not to move its carrier back to the previous area in the Gulf because Iran is not used to repeating its warnings and warns just once,” a general told state media.

Will Iran actually shut down the Strait? It doesn’t seem likely. While Iran could certainly cause problems, closing down the Strait would in fact be difficult for it to do. According to Reuters, “Iran would not be able to sustain a line of ships to block the Strait because it mainly has smaller boats that do not have the ability to stay in open waters in a coordinated formation for days.” Meanwhile, both Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Navy have since backtracked on the threat. Mahmoud Mousavi, a Deputy Commander in the Iranian Navy, told state media Sunday that Iran “does not intend to impede maritime shipping in the area.” Threats to close the Strait are also nothing new; Iranian officials for years have claimed that they would shut down the Strait (it’s never happened). As Ahmad Bakhshayesh Ardestani, a candidate for Iran’s parliament, told the Washington Post: “Our threat will not be realized. We are just responding to the US, nothing more.”

How does this affect me? Expect the price of gas to stay high. Crude oil futures jumped significantly Tuesday on international jitters over the brinkmanship, and some analysts are predicting that even a short Gulf blockade could send the cost of a barrel of crude over $150, a 40 percent spike from current levels. “The ever-growing frequency of intense sabre-rattling and muscle flexing between Iran and the US should keep the markets jittery and vulnerable to sudden price jumps,” market analyst JBC Energy reported Tuesday. Volatility in prices could get even worse in light of zero spare capacity among big oil producers such as Saudi Arabia.

Do the tensions involve those mysterious explosions in Iran lately? Possibly. In recent months, there have been three mysterious explosions at factories and warehouses across the country. Seventeen Iranian soldiers were reportedly killed by a blast at an ammunition depot outside Tehran in mid-November; that facility was run by the nation’s Revolutionary Guards, who have been implicated in uranium enrichment for nuclear weapons production. Later that month, a series of explosions leveled a key nuclear site in Isfahan, and anonymous Israeli sources disputed the Iranian explanation that it was an accident. And in December, seven people, including several foreigners, were killed when discarded ammunition reportedly exploded at a scrap-metal plant in Yazd. The blasts—in addition to the untimely deaths of three leading Iranian nuclear scientists in the past two years, and a devastating cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear facilities—have led some analysts to believe that the United States and its allies are already deep into a covert war against the rogue state.

Don’t we already have sanctions on Iran? Yes—and under Obama, they’re harsher than they’ve been in decades. Over New Year’s weekend he signed a defense-spending bill with an amendment that effectively freezes international deals with Iran’s Central Bank. If successful, it would halt much of Iran’s oil sales and further destabilize its currency. It would also hurt European trade and likely cause global oil prices to soar. The threat posed by the amendment may help explain why Iran ratcheted up its rhetoric over the weekend. The White House had strongly opposed the legislation despite bipartisan support for it in Congress, but Obama went on to sign the bill anyway. Why? Apart from the fact that defense spending isn’t really optional, the politics of the situation didn’t seem to favor the White House. As Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), one of the amendment’s sponsors, put it, “[A]s you enter a presidential contest, there’s no upside to being soft on Iran.”

Haven’t we been through this before? Sort of. During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, both countries targeted the other’s oil-tanker traffic in the Persian Gulf with missiles and mines. Starting in 1987, the US stepped into these “tanker wars” to protect oil shipments bound for the United States (or sold by US-based companies). During Operation Earnest Will and Operation Prime Chance, American naval ships protected convoys and kept the Iranians and Iraqis at bay. The global community had good reason to be on edge: During these operations, an American cruiser, the USS Vincennes, mistook an Iranian airliner for an incoming missile and shot it down, killing all 290 passengers. The engagement’s only US fatalities resulted from an unprovoked air-to-surface missile attack on the USS Stark, which killed 37 sailors. But the shooter wasn’t Iranian; he was Iraqi.

What’s different this time around? The United States has a much bigger strategic presence in the Middle East, and a lot of new military capabilities that weren’t around in 1987. The Navy’s 5th Fleet operates out of Bahrain, just 150 miles from Iran. The Navy has better-developed countermeasures for threats from mines and missiles. And our special operations capabilities are much more robust; remember that little 2011 operation in a Pakistani town called Abbottabad? Backed up by special boat units and mobile inshore underwater warfare units, the SEALs are even more effective at sea than they are in the middle of South Asia. In addition, the US hopes Middle East allies (and Iran rivals), like Saudi Arabia, will help deter Iran. To that end, the United States recently awarded a $15 billion arms contract to Saudi Arabia. […]

READ @ http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/01/whats-happening-persian-gulf-explained

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* AMERICANS MUST UNDERSTAND THE IMF SCAM

Source: A New World Order Out of Chaos

By creating economic crises and the collapse of a nation’s economy, the Illuminati force those nations indebted to them to trade their assets — gold, natural resources, and land — for the backing of the International Monetary Fund, which they created and control. Once they own a nation’s land and resources, they own and control that nation. They have made much progress toward this goal. Already every nation in the world is backed by the International Monetary Fund except the United States. Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, and other countries have been forced to trade assets and land to exonerate their debt. The specific plan to bring the U.S. under this monolithic control includes economic disruption, the collapse of more banks, and national bankruptcy. They believe that under these conditions most Americans will clamor for the “help” they offer, willingly trading our nation’s land and resources for the backing of the International Monetary Fund to bail us out of our predicament. Liberty Lost, F. Gregory Anderson, Circa 1993

My opinion is that economic turmoil, terrorist threats, rising food prices, rising unemployment, etc. are going to push many of the countries of the world (at the behest of elitists in positions of power who desire global government) to advocate consolidation of power into the control of the United Nations, IMF, the World Bank, and their affiliating institutions who have been behind the scenes pushing for a New World Order. – Sic Semper Tyrannis, Food Crisis 2010 and U.S. Dollar Impact, May 10, 2010

Once a country is indebted to the foreign banking cartel, even though the money is illusionary non-existent credit, the so indebted nation is forced to hand over control of their affairs to the international banking cartel’s World Bank and IMF, who then dictate the national economic and social policy at every level. Under this globalist financial system all roads not only lead to the same elite banking cabal, they also all lead to a nation’s control and enslavement. – Kelvyn Alp, Private bankers and their henchmen, Solomon Star, December 2, 2010

IMF Forcing Greece to Sell State Assets to Repay Bailout

February 14, 2011

UPI – Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said Greece was committed to privatizing services to comply with terms of its international bailout.

Greece received a $148 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union in May. The terms include an agreement to sell $67 billion in state assets, the EUobserver reported Monday.

An assessment team from the IMF and the EU recently criticized Greece for its slow efforts to turn services over to private concerns.

In turn, a spokesman for the Greek government on Saturday said the assessment team had “behaved unacceptably.”

“We asked them for help … not to meddle in our internal affairs,” the spokesman said.

Papaconstantinou sought to calm tensions Sunday after a statement from the European Central Bank and the IMF applauded Greece’s effort to comply with the terms of the loan.

“We recognize the difficult challenge facing the Greek economy and we have the deepest respect for the tremendous efforts being made by the Greek people,” the IMF and the ECB said.

Papaconstantinou said Greece “will commercially exploit public property,” but drew the line at selling state land.

“We will not sell off state land,” he said.

“The decisions about how this will be done will be taken by the Greek government and nobody else,” he added.

Go to Hell IMF: What We Don’t Want Is Your Austerity and Taxes

Americans Must Understand the IMF Scam […]

READ @ http://www.lambslain.com/2011/02/imfs-plan-to-own-worlds-land-and.html

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* INTERVIEW WITH ROCKY ANDERSON: JUSTICE PARTY CANDIDATE

By Rob Kall, OpEdNews

Rocky Anderson is running for president. His politics look like what progressives want, but he says that independents, Ron Paul supporters, and every one will like what he as to offer.

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Ross C. “Rocky” Anderson (born September 9, 1951) served two terms as the 33rd mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, between 2000 and 2008. He is the Executive Director of High Road for Human Rights. Prior to serving as Mayor, he practiced law for 21 years in Salt Lake City, during which time he was listed in Best Lawyers in America, was rated A-V (highest rating) by Martindale-Hubbell, served as Chair of the Utah State Bar Litigation Section and was Editor-in-Chief of, and a contributor to, Voir Dire legal journal.

As Mayor, Anderson rose to nationwide prominence as a champion of several national and international causes, including climate protection, immigration reform, restorative criminal justice, GLBT rights, and an end to the “war on drugs”. Before and after the invasion by the U.S. of Iraq in 2003, Anderson was a leading opponent of the invasion and occupation of Iraq and related human rights abuses. Anderson was the only mayor of a major U.S. city who advocated for the impeachment of President George W. Bush, which he did in many venues throughout the United States.

Anderson’s work and advocacy led to local, national, and international recognition in numerous spheres, including being named by Business Week as one of the top twenty activists in the world on climate change, serving on the Newsweek Global Environmental Leadership Advisory Board, and being recognised by the Human Rights Campaign as one of the top ten straight advocates in the United States for GLBT equality. He has also received numerous awards for his work, including the EPA Climate Protection Award, the Sierra Club Distinguished Service Award, the Respect the Earth Planet Defender Award, the National Association of Hispanic Publications Presidential Award, The Drug Policy Alliance Richard J. Dennis Drugpeace Award, the Progressive Democrats of America Spine Award, the League of United Latin American Citizens Profile in Courage Award, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee Patriot Award, the Code Pink (Salt Lake City) Pink Star honor, the Morehouse University Gandhi, King, Ikeda Award, and the World Leadership Award for environmental programs.

Formerly a member of the Democratic Party, Anderson expressed his disappointment with that Party in 2011, stating “(t)he Constitution has been eviscerated while Democrats have stood by with nary a whimper. It is a gutless, unprincipled party, bought and paid for by the same interests that buy and pay for the Republican Party.”

more from Rocky’s bio here. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=s&id=143